LONDON-Members of British Equity are renewing their fight to correct the apparent imbalance that allows more American actors in the West End than British actors on Broadway.
On July 5, British Equity's assistant general secretary, Christine Payne, will meet an independent committee representing a reputed 370 members. This follows a report by the British Council that also criticized the exchange system.
Although it admits that the problem exists, Equity will have a hard battle forcing through any change. The last Conservative government reduced the power of the unions, leaving British Equity with much less influence than its American counterpart. The present Labor government's Department for Education and Employment regularly ignores Equity recommendations to refuse American actors work permits. British producers are under no obligation to prove there is no British performer able to play a role.
Joseph Noble, spokesman for the independent committee, is particularly angered that British Afro-Caribbean actors often seem to bear the brunt of the inequality. Few would deny long-established British prejudice towards African American performers, particularly for musical roles. Recently British producer Adam Spiegel advertised auditions for the West End premiere of "Dreamgirls" in Back Stage.
The West End vs. Broadway antagonism is in sharp contrast to the free employment opportunities among member countries of the European Union. There are British Equity members in virtually every current musical in Germany, and this week German star Frederike Haas takes over the role of Roxie Hart in the West End production of "Chicago."